Duke
for every ten you buy.”
    Takiyah had little idea what that meant. When she was a kid, she once went with her mother to bingo. She almost died of boredom and never made the mistake again. “You two have been friends for something like forty years, and y’all still call each other Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Silver.”
    “Force of habit. Anyway, we’re leaving so don’t expect me in until late. Do you have your key?”
    Takiyah chuckled. “Yes, Ma. Have fun, and take it easy. Don’t get too excited over those games.”
    Her mother harrumphed and mumbled something about being sixty-something and able to handle herself. Takiyah shook her head and ended the call. The house would be empty tonight. If they wanted, she and Duke could go back to her place. Thinking about it, she sat straighter and glared at him. His expression said he knew exactly what was on her mind. She pursed her lips. Stay strong, Takiyah.
    “Sorry about that,” she said. “You were saying?”
    “I wasn’t confessing,” he said with a smirk. “You were.”
    “Confessing?” For a moment she couldn’t remember what the heck he was talking about, and then it all came back to her. Duke thought she still loved Ed. Preposterous. She considered whether she wanted to set the record straight or let him believe a lie to protect herself. Then it pissed her off that she thought she even needed protection from him. She should be strong enough to tell him no and make him back off if she wanted it. The problem was, she didn’t want him to back off. “I don’t love Ed. What we had is in the past, and I’m leaving it there whether he hopes for more or not. What about you? Have you ever been married?”
    He cringed. “Never.”
    “No plans on it, huh?”
    “Aren’t you breaking some type of dating rule, talking about marriage on the first date?”
    “This isn’t a date. You’re thanking me.”
    He laughed. “Ah, yes. I forgot. To answer your question, no woman has ever moved me enough to abandon my single life. Not even close.” He leaned nearer and lowered his voice to a panty-wetting tone. “Does that entice you to try to tempt me?”
    “Don’t flatter yourself, pal.”
    He threw his head back and laughed so heartily, she was struck dumb. Watching him express his emotions with so much abandon blew her mind. Duke seemed to be happy beyond anyone she had ever known. Deep inside, her belly stirred with anxiety pretty often. If she wasn’t worried about Keen, she was worried about her mother. If they weren’t the focus, then it was finances. She had never let go and just lived, not for as long as she could remember. Just looking at Duke, a man who didn’t care one bit about what others thought and assumed about him, it was kind of gratifying and relaxing. She could never have explained it to anyone.
    “Your son is staying with his dad this weekend?” Duke asked.
    “Yeah, until Sunday night.”
    Duke rubbed his jaw, and his eyes glazed over as if he considered something. “Have you ever been on a motorcycle?”
    A sense of panic washed over her. “Um, no.”
    “I have a motorcycle that I thought I’d get rid of. Turns out I can keep it. I don’t ride it often because it’s a classic, but I thought it would be fun to take you for a ride on it tomorrow. What do you say? Should we make a day of it?”
    “I have to work tomorrow afternoon.”
    “Late afternoon. We can go in the morning and be back in time.”
    She chewed her bottom lip, thinking about it. Duke stroked the skin between her thumb and forefinger.
    “I see the panic on your face, Kiyah. Don’t be afraid. I’ll take care of you, and I promise I’ll drive everywhere safely. Take a chance.”
    A chance he said, when she had so much riding on her not breaking her damn neck on his motorcycle. “What the hell, yes! I’ll go. It should be fun.”
    “That’s my girl. Now about tonight—”
    “Tonight, sir, you are taking me home. Then you’re going to yours, or wherever you stay.

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